As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the found footage film genre has died a death. MAKE IT STOP! The Blair Witch Project brought something new to the horror genre. Over-hyped to the max but suspenseful and tense. Paranormal Activity resurrected that format and made it a hit yet again.
But surely movie producers must have realized by the endless sequels that followed from Paranormal that the format was being milked dry. Look, I’m an old school horror nut. The Shining, The Exorcist, Psycho managed to haunt me. While these feeble attempts at “horror” if you can call it that, on the other hand, are laughable. Well, I can laugh. It doesn’t cost me anything but at 10 quid a ticket, it’s not good enough.
From the opening shaky handheld selfie shot, I could feel my head shaking. Here we go. Our posh toff archaeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks – Channel 4’s The Promise) explaining everything she is doing, killing all mystery and suspense. The opening sequence was pacey but the camera work was that shaky and erratic, I couldn’t see what was going on. It was giving me a headache . . . and the camera work as well. The jumpy moments merely equating to loud bangs and screams to make sure the audience are still awake after mind numbing exposition.
It all felt like a ridiculous Indiana Jones crusade. The Mummy through the eyes of Omid Djalili with the scarab beetle in his head. That is how frantic the camera work was. I never heard so many horror movie cliches in one opening scene; “Let’s split up”, “I have a family”, “I must complete my fathers work”, oh and the infamous “Don’t go in there”. It was certainly different with an Iranian cave demolition chase but as the film slowed down (boy did it), we are subjected to none other but a quest for the Philosopher’s Stone. No, you read that right.
You’re a wizard, Scarlett. A boring fable on Nicholas Flamel dragged the film further and further. Did they not watch or read Harry Potter? You could have nicked a quick synopsis and got to the catacombs so much quicker. I could feel my eyes drooping. Our lead heroine waffles on about degrees and Egyptology waffle. Credit where’s it due; the cast do their utmost to try and make it interesting but my word . . . Dull.
Ben Feldman. Why would you leave Mad Men for this? Your first film post Mad Men and it’s this? A cliched character with a “dark past” spewing cliched tripe with an inevitable and corny romance brewing him and Scarlett. It was all so tedious. I thought I was watching a straight to DVD sequel of National Treasure. All the historical mumbo jumbo was there. There was one cool but highly ridiculous trick involving a tablet, cleaning fluid and a lighter. We need ammonia. Conveniently while breaking into a church, the janitor has left all the chemicals and lighters your heart could contend. Brilliant!
When we finally get into the catacombs (after 40 minutes), there are moments but that is being generous. When the camera man gets trapped in a tight crevice (Come on, we’re better than that), it was done quite well as he struggles and wrestles through a passage decorated with bones. For any claustrophobic, a nightmare scenario. But unfortunately, I’m not claustrophobic. There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all. Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.
Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret? He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch. The final 15 minutes certainly took it up a notch with a mad dash for survival but it felt like a terrible mish-mesh of the Death figure from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal wafting around and brooding in a chair, demented statues that were ripped off from the Doctor Who angels popping out of no where and the frenetic first person POV (that was brought back and done so much better in REC and REC 2) rearing its ugly head in an act of desperation to keep us hanging on the end of our seats.
For me, I was already on the end of my seat getting ready to leave. This only made me want to watch The Descent. A film that I felt at the time was incredibly flat and over-hyped but in comparison to this monstrosity, at least that succeeded in suspense and real scares. The ending of As Above So Below was a surprise. But it only established how ridiculous and stupid this film really was. If you are after a claustrophobic cave horror film, invest in The Descent. Hell even the second one. Just not this.